Question In seeds which are regularly consumed by waterbirds in the field, how does gut–passage modify their response to salinity gradients?Location: Doñana National Park salt marsh, south-west of Spain.Methods: Seeds of Scirpus litoralis and Scirpus maritimus were collected and force fed to mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). Both the ingested seeds (passage) and non-ingested seeds (controls) were exposed, in germination chambers, to a salinity range similar to that observed in the field (0–32 dS/m). After 30 days, the total percentage germination, the duration of the dormancy period and the germination speed were computed. The response of the different germination parameters to ingestion and salinity was analyzed using generalized lineal models. Recovery tests on seeds that did not germinate in the various treatments and tests of the effect of ingestion on the intrinsic variability in seed response were also performed.Results: An increase in salinity reduced germinability and increased the length of dormancy, while gut passage increased the intrinsic variability of the temporal seed response in both species. In S. litoralis there was a significant interaction between the effects of salinity and passage on germination rate. Passage increased germination rate at low salinities (≤2 dS/m) but decreased it at high salinities (≥4 dS/m).Conclusion: Gut-passage by ducks significantly changes seed response to salinity. The outcome of plant-animal interactions can be influenced by environmental gradients. Studies of germination in response to gut passage that do not take such gradients into account may produce misleading results.Abbreviation: GLM = Generalized linear model.